Recently members of Spider Writers and our sister company, Simple Tourism, were asked to deliver a presentation on social media to the marketing teams of convention and visitors bureaus around North Carolina. We enjoyed a lively discussion on utilizing Facebook to the best of their ability, and hopefully brought insight to different ways anybody can use this social network to build their brand. The following is first in a series of articles adapted from our talk and is written with the beginning marketing in mind.
If you run any kind of business, regardless of size or reach, it’s assumed you have the bare minimum in your marketing arsenal, that being one Facebook page and one Twitter account. If you have neither, it’s important by the end of the day to have them up and running, because these are probably two of the most valuable marketing tools you’ll use today. They are free to use and have the potential to reach an audience larger than the population of most countries. It’s been said that if Facebook were a country it would be the fourth largest in the world, and the proprietary search engine created for Twitter is used regularly to find information. The content you place here is apt to be found, all you have to do is get it there.
That said, we will focus now on the Facebook page and ways you can use this free tool to your advantage. At first glance it may appear Facebook’s structural limitations won’t allow you to do much beyond updating status and posting links, but if you look carefully you’ll find there are ways to customize your page to give it some uniqueness that defines your destination and turns initial visitors into regular viewers and people likely to share your information.
The Main Profile Graphic should be utilized to its extent. You are allowed to use 200×600 pixels here, and you can customize a graphic that includes URLs of your main site and blogs, URLs to your Twitter or YouTube, your logo, anything you feel should be promoted there. This graphic is set to catch the eye immediately, so optimize the space.
Promotion of Other Local Pages – You’ll notice on your lower left sidebar there is a place where you can highlight your page’s favorite pages. This gives you the opportunity to seek out Facebook pages belonging to businesses and attractions in your area. When you visit a page you can click to add that page to your favorites listing. In turn, local businesses can return the favor. You’ll find that when you promote the presences of these businesses they are likely to reciprocate. One such trick to promote a local business and your page at the same time is to mention a specific Facebook in your status updates. Choose a Facebook page you have “liked” and insert an @ sign along with the page’s name, and the page will be linked in your update. When you visit the page you have linked, you’ll find your post on their Wall, and visitors to that page will see it and hopefully click through to you.
Custom Tabs – Facebook tends to change policies on page design from time to time, but one constant that remains is the custom tab. By adding a certain application to your page called Static FBML, you can customize HTML and CSS code to show in tabs that appear in your top menu. Using Facebook’s Developer’s Guide, you can embed a video gallery or photo slideshow, you can apply a searchable directory of hotels, restaurants, or vacation rentals, you can set up an ecommerce or opt-form to collect e-mail addresses. Custom tabs are designed to enhance the functionality of your page and basically turn it into a satellite site.
Engage and Respond – If you expect growth of your fanbase, if you expect people to stay fans, you must keep the information you provide current and you must engage fans in conversation. When people post to your Wall, respond in a timely fashion. When you receive criticism, supply feedback in a tactful manner – we usually suggest you don’t remove posts unless they border on extremely volatile; if you can show you handle critiques well, you stand to gain respect. If you keep your review and discussion tabs active, check them regularly. Don’t let anything go stale.
Integration – When you consider how many pages and accounts people may follow in a day, if you post one thing one time it may get lost in the ether. As was mentioned before, a visitor is going to come to your site several times before making a decision, so it’s important to keep your messages alive through all your networks. Your Facebook page should feed into Twitter; Your YouTube account should feed into Facebook; your blog RSS should feed into your Facebook notes application. You’ll have people who may follow one account or the other, so cover your bases.
Kathryn Lively is a social media specialist assisting clients with social media writing and Facebook marketing. Clients include vendors of cloth diapers, travel companies offering cheap European hotel reservations, Virginia health care services, Norfolk Realtors, and Gainesville bed and breakfast inns.